In early July a couple of friends came to visit us in Vancouver.

While they were here we took a walk around the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

As we were walking, one friend, Fish, spotted some salmonberries in the bushes and offered me some.

I was delighted! The last time I ate wild berries was in middle school, picking them from Ohio wetlands. It was the golden time before the food-safety anxieties of adult life.

salmonberry

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for these tart treats on future walks.

On my last trip to Kenya, I decided to take a discovery flight lesson in Nairobi.

I have a slight interest in aviation and before the COVID pandemic, I took a couple of flight lessons in Colorado.

Having no leads, I began by searching for and calling flight schools. Eventually, I got managed to schedule a class with Ninety-Nines Flying School.

Ninety-Nines Flying School is based out of the Wilson airport in Nairobi. Wilson is a commercial airport serving many regional airlines. I was super excited to both be flying in Kenya as well as flying out of a commercial airport for the first time.

flight school

On the day of the flight, I arrived early and Pressly greeted me warmly and showed me around Wilson airport from an operational perspective. Pressly worked at Ninety-Nines Flying School, has a private pilot licence, and is aiming to get his commercial pilot license. He told me awesome stories of learning to fly and the process of getting licenses in Kenya, which turned out to have the same requirements as the United States. The only difference was they didn’t require tailspin recovery as a maneuver.

When the clouds cleared, Pressly walked me through the pilot’s entrance at Wilson and introduced me to Captain Madara, ready with a Cessna nicknamed “the Beast”.

Captain Madara

The Beast flew smoothly. We circled around Nairobi and saw some stunning views. (The picture doesn’t do Nairobi justice.)

flying over Nairobi

Captain Madara was excited to learn I had some prior flying experience and asked if I wanted to try some maneuvers not yet covered in my prior flight lessons. I said yes.

He accelerated the plane downwards to create G-forces and which felt like gut-wrenching drops during heavy turbulence.

He also stalled the engine and performed stall recovery.

Returning to the airport, Captain Madara exchanged controls with me and guided me through landing.

I couldn’t stop smiling when I stepped off the plane. It an amazing and heart-palpitating discovery flight.

A couple of friends and I took the bus from Kigali to Gisenyi in March. There were a couple of conflicting guides on how to get to Gisenyi from Kigali so I’m writing this down for any similarly curious travelers.

From the Nyabugogo Bus Station in Kigali, you can hop on a Ritco bus which will take you to Gisenyi by way of Musanse. See this blog post for photos.

Ritco buses are government run, leave very punctually at the half-hour, and use paper tickets with QR codes. You can buy tickets at the bus station, so no need to buy in advance.

The journey is 4 hours with several stops for restroom breaks. You get to course through the spectacular hills of Rwanda against the background of upbeat Nigerian pop music.

Google Maps thinks there are two bus stops in Gisenyi. In reality, there’s only one: the one next to the DRC border. The other stop is a nondescript location far from hotels and difficult for taxis to locate. Don’t make our mistake! Disembark at the blue dot.

Google Maps Gisenyi bus station

After seeing photos of sambaza kitenge, I went on a fabric shopping spree, dreaming of making a fish-themed quilt.

While I didn’t end up finding the specific print, I learned a lot about buying kitenge in Kigali.

There are two main destinations for buying kitenge: Kimironko Market and Kigali Fabric Market.

Kimironko Market is more of a traditional market, selling everything from household goods to fruits and vegetables. There’s a a group of fabric stalls where vendors hanging their wares on wooden beams. Tailors surround the stalls, ready to turn your purchases into outfits.

Kimironko Market fabric

Kigali Fabric Market is a much smaller market located inside a small building next to the Kigali City Market mall. The selection is significantly better. Kitenge of all designs are piles into tall stacks for your sifting pleasure.

Kigali Fabric Market

If you’re traveling by car, you’ll need to help direct your driver to Kigali Fabric Market. It’s a less known destination. The best landmark is the Kigali City Market mall next door. Since Google Maps doesn’t have great photos of the entrance, here’s a blog post to help you locate it.

Kigali map

Prices at both locations depend on our negotiation skills. They can be as low as 5000 RWF for a 6-yard bundle. I wasn’t as skilled and purchased fabrics at 15000 RWF.

Overall, I prefer Kigali Fabric Market because of its large variety of kitenge. It’s a sewing paradise.

I visited to Rwanda a couple of months ago and tried urwagwa, a local alcoholic drink made from bananas.

I was too timid to purchase homebrew versions at food stalls so I ended up ordering it at at upscale restaurant called Heaven Restaurant.

It tasted like caramelized bananas in a tarte tatin!

urwagwa

crow's nest

A crow built a nest outside our window and a couple of days ago, it laid eggs!

It has been simply delightful watching our crow friend and we’re looking forward to hatchlings.

Nairobi feels different than when I left in 2020. Many shops and restaurants closed. A lucky few expanded.

I was heartbroken to discover metal gates shuttering Silk Noodles and Canton Snacks near Argwings Arcade. They were my favorite Chinese restaurants.

Michael noticed one Google review mentioned Silk Noodles had relocated. So last evening, we ventured out to find the new Silk Noodles.

What we discovered was a Chinatown!

Nairobi Chinatown

chengdu restaurant

chinese real estate

spirits and wines

Chinatown was a massive complex filled with restaurants and specialty shops.

The main grocery store stocked authentic ingredients. They even had zha cai, a vegetable I’d struggled to find in Vancouver!

Dinner at Silk Noodles was delicious, as always.